With smiles and tears around the fire, friends and family remember Mark Harken

Sarah Higgins, the mother of Mark Harken, placed a note to her son in the flames of a fire pit Sunday evening at a vigil.
Sarah Higgins, the mother of Mark Harken, placed a note to her son in the flames of a fire pit Sunday evening at a vigil.

A lively force in his family who always kept everyone “moving on to the next thing.” A loyal high school lunchmate who was a great listener. A fireworks enthusiast who had just put on the best Fourth of July display his cousin had ever seen. A smitten college student who hoped to marry the beautiful girlfriend he loved.[pullquote]SM East cross country coach David Pennington remembers Mark Harken
Click the arrow to hear Pennington’s thoughts.

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Those were just some of the memories loved ones shared of 20-year-old SM East graduate Mark Harken Sunday evening at a vigil in his honor a week and a day after he was killed in a rural Missouri car wreck.

More than three dozen friends and family members gathered at Fairway’s Neale Peterson Park where they circled around three fire pits, sharing their memories of Harken and placing notes they had written to him in the flames.

Jenna Engelken, a childhood friend of Harken’s whose families were very close, organized the vigil, and said the fires were key to honoring Harken’s spirit, since he loved campfires, fireworks and cigars.

“Mark loved fire and everything that came with it,” she said. “I wanted people to be able to remember the good things — give a break from the grieving and just remember him for all he was.”

Engelken said she and Harken called each other godbrother and godsister. Like many of his closest friends, her strongest memories of Harken came from time spent outdoors.

“I remember when we were little kids, I was in a tent and he came running in and said, ‘Let’s go catch some bugs!'” she said. “We got these terrible plastic nets and ran around and caught grasshoppers and frogs and stuff like that. It was such a great time. One of those things you never forget.”

Drew Surface, a high school friend of Harken’s, brought one of Harken’s favorite cigars — an Undercrown by Drew Estate — and placed it in the fire pit.

“I thought he should have have one last one,” he said.

Mark Harken's girlfriend Jennifer Noble spoke through tears at the vigil.
Mark Harken’s girlfriend Jennifer Noble spoke through tears at the vigil.